Citizens of the Rocky Mountain state are relying on the incoming Trump administration to require that the EPA pay damages in the wake of a massive agency-caused toxic water spill in Colorado.
Republicans and Democrats have criticized the agency’s decision to ignore victims associated with the Gold King Mine spill, which released 3 million gallons of dangerous metals like lead, cadmium and arsenic into the Animas River.
Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado and his Democratic colleague Michael Bennett blasted the Obama administration Thursday for its refusal to help the spill victims.
“I applaud Attorney General Pruitt’s commitment to review the EPA’s decision to not process FTCA claims related to the Gold KingMine spill,” Gardner said Thursday in a statement, referring to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), a nearly 70-year-old law the EPA suggested gives them sovereign immunity from paying $1.2 billion in damages.
Bennett, meanwhile, chided the EPA for skirting its responsibilities.
“The record is clear that the Environmental Protection Agency was responsible for the spill. It is extremely disappointing that the EPA has categorically rejected every single claim filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act,” he said in a statement. “The agency has broken its promise to make our communities whole in the days after the spill.”
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, a tribe whose water supply was affected by spill, said he’s hoping Congress and the Trump administration will force the EPA to take responsibility.
“There is no reason our families on the front line of this spill should have to tighten their belts while the federal agencies responsible proceed along unaffected by their own actions,” Begaye said Thursday.
He added: “We plan to work with this Congress and the next administration to bring justice and accountability for our Navajo people.”
The agency’s decision came after the Department of Justice October decision not to charge the EPA employee involved in causing the spill. EPA’s Inspector General (IG) launched an investigation into whether the employee violated laws regulating the country’s waterways and made false statements about the spill. The IG did not disclose the employee’s name.
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